PHILADELPHIA(CBS)—Andy Reid knew the question would inevitably come up and it didn’t take very long. You almost knew how the Eagles’ coach was going to react, too, and Reid didn’t disappoint, laughing it off when asked: Kevin Kolb or Michael Vick? Expect that question to be asked often this week. There seems to be a pattern to this ever-spinning, revolving door the Eagles have when it comes to their starting quarterback. One goes down with an injury, the other steps in and does exceptionally well in their place. It was Kolb’s turn this time.
For the second-straight week Kolb looked good, completing 23-of-29 for 326 yards and a career-best three touchdowns in guiding the Eagles to a very impressive 31-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Kolb did it behind a revamped offensive line, that featured left tackle King Dunlap making his first NFL start. It took Kolb some time, but there were no boos raining down on him this time, like he received in the season opener against Green Bay. No, Kolb’s play just added more kindling to enrage what’s been a season-long debate who the Eagles’ starting quarterback will be next Sunday, when the Birds travel to Tennessee.
Reid was almost giddy, not just over the victory, but the nice situation in which he finds himself.
“I told you guys [Vick] was the starter, and he is the starter,” Reid said. “As long as you guys want me to play him, I’ll play him. This is a beautiful thing. I told you that before. If you’re sitting here as a chubby coach in the National Football League, and you’ve got two quarterbacks, you’re a happy guy. I have to make the right decision. Vick is still the starting quarterback. It’s what is so great about it. We’re going to take Michael Kolb and go play. I’ll promise you this, I’ll have one of them out there next week.”
Against Atlanta, the Eagles helped themselves. They were a team that lacked definition, despite their 3-2 record. They had shown glimmers of what they could be in their first five games, but beating three teams that had a combined record of 4-11 entering Sunday’s games wasn’t exactly a glowing endorsement of just where the Eagles stood. Beating Atlanta was something a little different. The Falcons came in carrying a four-game winning streak. They had a dangerous offense, led by local product Matt Ryan, and a strong running game fueled by Michael Turner.
Considering how banged up the Eagles are, beating Atlanta was an encouraging sign for this young team. Especially in the nebulous world of the NFC this season, where anything is possible. Six weeks into the season, the Eagles now have to be considered in the mix with Chicago, the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints.
Kolb was open about his ultimate desire–that’s to start. When asked what it will be like returning to the bench, Kolb said, “You always want to play and we’re excited about today, all of us. We have confidence in whoever is out there. And I think that’s the way the team approaches it. I really do. I want to be out there again. I trust Andy to make the right decision for everybody and we believe in that. I want to give credit to the offense though, and really the whole team, because whoever is in there, they’ve been fighting and doing a heck of a job for both guys. And it’s not easy. Right-handed [Kolb], left-handed [Vick], different styles, difference cadence. So you have to give credit to them for the week of preparation that we had.”
But Kolb and the Eagles’ amazing performance came with some tarnish—the loss of game-breaking star DeSean Jackson. Jackson reportedly suffered a severe concussion, and speculation had him possibly out for three weeks (which included the October 31 bye week) until at least November 7, when the Eagles host the Indianapolis Colts.
Jackson was in a woozy state and had to be helped off the field, after a jarring collision with Atlanta’s Dunta Robinson in the second quarter. Jackson did not return to the game. Robinson and Jackson were down for about five minutes on the third-and-six play from the Falcons’ 32, after Robinson slammed Jackson in the chest and chin with the crown of his helmet.
Aside from Kolb’s sterling performance, the Eagles’ defense, led by Trent Cole, Nate Allen and Stewart Bradley, also shined. They rattled Ryan all afternoon, sacking him three times, forcing a fumble and hurrying him into making unsure decisions. Another big key was stuffing the bullish Turner. Entering the game, Atlanta had averaged 148.8 yards a game rushing (second-highest in the NFL), and the Eagles’ defense had been pushed around earlier this season by big, physical backs. The Eagles held Turner to 45 yards rushing, and the Falcons to a total of 65 yards on the ground.
“It was all scheme,” said Cole, who finished with five tackles and two sacks for minus-14 yards. “We had a great scheme and we stuck with it. I think the big thing is that we not only stuck with the scheme, but we executed it.”
Guided by Kolb, the Eagles scored on their first two possessions—both Jackson touchdowns. The Eagles had the luxury of working off a short field throughout the first half and took full advantage of it. The average field position for the Eagles’ first four series began on their 40-yard line. The Eagles needed two plays to score first, when Jackson went darting through the Atlanta defense for a 31-yard touchdown run on an end-around play.
Jackson struck again on the Eagles’ second drive, hauling in a Kolb 31-yard TD pass, giving the Eagles a quick 14-0 with 6:57 left in the first quarter. In one quarter, Philadelphia outgained the Falcons, 152-59, with seven first downs to a mere two for Atlanta. By the half, that advantage stood at 248 yards to 133, and a very impressive 4-for-6 on third-down conversions.
With Jackson out, Jeremy Maclin stepped in, caught a team-high seven passes for a game-high 159 yards (averaging 22.7 yards/per catch), including TD receptions of eight and 83 yards. Maclin is also pretty pleased with the Eagles’ current situation of a two-headed quarterback.
“We have playmakers all over the board,” Maclin said. And we’re fortunate enough to have two guys who can play quarterback in this league and play very well. It’s a luxury. They’ve both won games for us and we have faith in both of them.”
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito